Why you should read The Jaguar’s Children right now


In 2015 award-winning author John Vaillant released his first novel “The Jaguar’s Children” saying that the issues of Mexico’s plight are just too complex to do justice in a non-fiction book.  The book cover shows a wall….the same wall that everyone is talking about in 2017.

jaguars-children-cover

It’s this wall that our main characters Hector and Cesar must overcome but the greater story is in the reasons that have pushed Hector and Cesar to make this choice. For one, their home region of Mexico, Oaxaca, has been overtaken by corporate farming and the heritage strain of Oaxaca’s indigenous corn is being bioengineered out of existence.  The corn is an underlying metaphor that pervades the novel as Hector’s own Zapotec heritage is threatened by modernisation and his decision to leave Mexico altogether.  Most of the novel takes place inside the water truck which conceals the boys’ identities but becomes their prison as it breaks down in the hot desert sun.  In dealing with this real conflict, Hector takes Cesar’s phone and tries to reach out for help.  Timely and gripping, The Jaguar’s Children will leave you with questions about our own responsibilities as global citizens and who gains most from economic policy.

Join me in TeachOntario for a great discussion beginning February 21, 2017. TeachOntario is an open space for educators and the public alike. This is our first fiction collaboration with the Ontario School Library Association and we’ve chosen The Jaguar’s Children because it is a) a wicked good book and b) because it was nominated for an Evergreen award by the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading program.  The book club is inside the Explore section of TeachOntario as we are inviting the public to join in so please bring a friend.

To register for the book club, go here: https://www.teachontario.ca/community/explore/TO-OLA-book-club

The Best Bits of #BIT16Reads

Trying to grow and sustain a book club over 5 months has been a real experiment.  It all culminates in the biggest and best conference on educational technology in Ontario (maybe Canada!) which is the Bring IT Together conference.  If you’ve never been before, you’ll find a whole bunch of people who want to enable you to go to your next level.  My favourite day is the first one where we get to play in Minds on Media or work deeply in a 1/2 day workshop.  That’s where I’ll be on day 1…learning!

On Thursday November 10th we will finally meet face-to-face at the #BIT16Reads Book Club Breakfast →7:30 a.m. – 8:15 a.m. in the Peller Estates Ballroom A. Our Thursday morning begins with our #BIT16 Reads book club breakfast, right before the conference’s opening keynote speaker, provided through a partnership with TeachOntario and the Ontario School Library Association and facilitated by moi.  Looking forward to seeing you for breakfast and a byte!  We will have discussions through Twitter so make sure to use and follow the hashtag #BIT16Reads.  We will reveal one of the books for next year’s book club and there will be giveaways for everyone who attends.

On Friday November 11th at 10 a.m. in Peller Estates Ballroom D I will present

#BIT16Reads: Cultures that support tech integration in education

I encourage you to spend some time with me and open up some of the issues we encountered in our reading this year. I began this year’s book club asking the question: How can schools develop cultures that facilitate the integration of educational technology? Each of the 5 books we read this year offer insights into these answers.  Through research and leadership, critical thinking, learning strategies and education reform I think we have the power to begin and sustain this transformation.

Please drop me a line here or on Twitter where I’m @banana29 and let me know when we’ll meet up at #BIT16.  Personally, I can’t wait.

 

#BIT16Reads: Whose mindset is the right one?

I’ve just finished reading George Couros‘ “The Innovator’s Mindset” and I think it’s time that we addressed the elephant in the room.  The word “mindset” is so five minutes ago.  There I said it.  What I mean is that putting the words innovator and mindset together in the same phrase is oxymoronic…it’s a contradiction in terms, like jumbo shrimp, military intelligence (ouch).  Doesn’t the very word mindset imply that the mind is formed and finished?  George does acknowledge that the precursor to his book was influenced by Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset” which anyone who is anyone knows has rocked the business and education worlds leading to great new conversations about grit and resilience.  George leaps from here and says that (spoiler alert) the innovator’s mindset relies on the iterative process of finding problems, networking ideas, observing, creating, being resilient when faced with challenges, and being reflective in order to deepen the process.  But I can’t help but think about Chris Hadfield, whose ideas I support when he says that we need to Prepare for Failure:

I like the idea of having a calm confidence and being ready to be flexible.  The best time for my learning is when I’ve created flow, and Hadfield acknowledges this in his book “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth”.  But when the flow is really flowing, and a problem arises, I smile at the challenge…like a good question in a crossword puzzle…and my creativity kicks in and I work through it happily.  That flow is the culture I aim to create in my library learning commons every day….the messy, random happiness of flow.  The only time that I ‘discipline’ other students is when they interrupt another person’s flow and I say out loud: “You’re interrupting my learning” and ask them to stop.  One of the keys to my daily success is being prepared for anything to happen and I think being ready to happily go with the flow is one of my strengths.  It takes a lot of work though…often in the quiet moments outside of the school day, to be this ready for anything.  More than optimism or innovation, I think the future of my son’s success will be his ability to adapt to new situations.  This adaptability may require optimism and innovation but those might not be on his path.  It takes more than a mindset and more research is being written on this topic:

a) Canadian author Paul Tough has written this article as precursor to his latest book: Helping Children Succeed http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/how-kids-really-succeed/480744/ in which he questions the teachability of resilience and instead suggests we aim to reduce the effect of socio-economic status on learning.

b) #BIT15Reads author Jose Vilson lead me to see how systemic racism is a major factor in the outcome of students.  An emerging voice of educators see this quest for teaching grit as an enormous example of cultural bias: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2015/01/is_grit_racist.html

The best part of Couros’ book is when he nails the conditions for a culture of innovation in schools and these 5 points could sustain me for the rest of my teaching career:

  1. Focusing on strengths-based leadership

I could do this every single day with anyone of my relationships…focus on peoples’ strengths.

2.  Allow learners’ needs to drive our decisions

I need to acknowledge that learners are all of us, adults and students, that are working within their own process and my daily goal is to enable that process in any way that I can.

3.  Narrowing our focus and engaging in deep learning

I need to reiterate the why and the how as much more than the what in my teaching.  The what is often Google-able and I want to learn and teach more deeply than that.  I’ve seen leadership try to make this what so vague and inconsequential that the why and how can be suited to any sort of learning target within this umbrella what that is called a learning target or big idea….I’m not convinced that this is the right answer.  If we truly believe in the content of our curriculum, then we need to see the big goal as a continuum (as Chris Hadfield said) and see each one of our content concepts as a direct stepping stone to that idea.

4.  Embracing an open culture

Who am I to dictate how someone else should learn?  I think what George is getting at is the messiness of trying to implement and measure a truly inquiry-based project that is based on student voice and choice.  We need to be open to and confident about capturing and measuring student learning in a variety of modes and mediums. This means that I also have to be really confident about what I want to measure in order to recognize it when I see it in a new form.

5.  Create learning experiences for educators that we would love to see in the classroom

Would I like to take my own course?  Would I like to be in this atmosphere?  Every day the answer needs to be yes.

I added The Innovator’s Mindset to the #BIT16Reads book club list as a way to add a leadership voice to the question:  How do we create a culture in schools to best integerate technology? and I think this book does so very well.  Moving education forward isn’t an elephant that we can eat all at once.  It’s a very complex beast.  Creating conditions for innovation, which may or may not include technology, is best for learning.

Sidenote:  As a librarian, as a researcher, I would really like an index in George Couros’ book.  I’d like it to refer to every outside reference George uses all in 1 place, and every big idea that is mentioned.  It’s one of the first things on my list when I buy non-fiction for my library….if there aren’t embedded tools for useability, it could be more useful.

Presenting the #BIT16Reads Book Club

conference pic1

Why an online book club and why now?

  • I like to read things that inform my professional trajectory
  • I like to find people who like to read and engage in rich discussions about what we read
  • I want to build a tighter community of educators that cross subjects and grades

Last year we used the Goodreads platform to collate our ideas and we attracted 94 educators world wide from 5 countries…however we weren’t very social inside Goodreads. So with the help of TVO’s TeachOntario platform I aim to improve that this year! Of course, you can still use any kind of medium you like to communicate…I use Twitter, Google Hangouts and Goodreads but I’m open to the possibilities.  Please use #BIT16Reads so we can find each other! Bring IT Together, TeachOntario and of course, the Ontario School Library Association are all partners in bringing this book club together.

We’re going to read 5 books by November 2016:

Why these books?

  • They’re all recently published
  • They’re all related to education leadership
  • They’re all related to building school cultures that support the integration of technology

Here’s the reading schedule:

June 2016: Participatory Culture in a Networked Era

July 2016: The Innovator’s Mindset

August 2016: Creating Thinking Classrooms

September 2016: How We Learn

October 2016: Building School 2.0

Interested?

Please join us in any of the following ways:

  1. Register at TeachOntario: https://www.teachontario.ca/community/explore/BookClub
  2. Invite yourself to the Goodreads book club: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/170190-bit16reads
  3. Use social media with this hashtag: #BIT16Reads

I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

Why the internet isn’t a cultural remedy after all

The first time I had an internet experience that crossed cultural boundaries was when I was using a first gen music sharing site like Napster to find J-Pop.  I just happened to notice that this particular pirate/curator liked a lot of the same music that I did from my first stint teaching ESL in Japan in 1994 so I reached out.  I used my rudimentary Japanese to say “Hello!  Nice music!” and they used their rudimentary Japanese to say “Thanks!” back.  One thing led to another and we found out that neither of us was actually living in Japan and instead we were communicating from Canada to Brazil.  I had a whole new cultural appreciation for the Japanese-Brazilian population and my hope for a better world swelled in my heart.

In re-reading danah boyd’s It’s Complicated in TVO’s TeachOntario book club, I’m reminded of those early hopes for the internet’s impact on cultural sharing.  As boyd points out in her notes for Chapter 6, the world became more hopeful that social remedy would truly cross racism off the list in 2011, when Twitter became the chosen network for the Arab Spring movement.  Why aren’t more internet interactions like this one?  Why didn’t the internet become the remedy for inequality?  Christian Rudder’s book Dataclysm is a fantastic read on the topic of the in herent racism that is demonstrated by online behaviour.  I’m not sure what the answer is but I think it has more to do with human nature’s desire to post ridiculous pictures of cat memes.  I’m disappointed that the internet has just amplified our microcosms rather than solving our macro social issues.

 

lolcatsdotcomcm90ebvhwphtzqvf.jpg

#BIT15Reads: Where do we go from here?

Welcome to all new members of #BIT15Reads! Hello to all of you who’ve been with us since the beginning.

We gained almost 30 new members since November 4th bringing our total membership to 92 members.  Fantastic.

I’d like to propose a few ideas for moving forward:
a) we keep the name #BIT15Reads until Dec. 31, 2015 and then change it #BIT16Reads
b) we review some of our favourite books (that involve technology and education somehow)…I’m calling this the “classics” bookshelf which I’ve said we’re “currently reading” in the Goodreads bookclub site  (I’ve already started a list based on suggestions and a few of my favourites but I know there are more out there…don’t be shy!)
c) We continue to expand our group’s platforms where we’re comfy…I’ve tried Goodreads, Flipboard, Google Hangouts and Twitter so far. Peter McAsh has offered to take the lead on Blab…a social conferencing tool that Steve Dotto highlighted at the conference. Any others?
d) Start thinking about #BIT16Reads books….these would be books with a copyright date of 2015 that you’d like to read/highlight as important reads about technology’s role in education.  Maybe we start reading these in May 2015 to get ready for #BIT16?

Your action items:

  • enjoy reading
  • nominate classics books
  • keep talking about the books you’re reading either from the BIT15Reads or Classics lists and tweet using the hashtag #BIT15Reads as you’re reading, when you review, when you connect to other texts etc.
  • start or join discussions in Goodreads
  • give me feedback
  • get involved

Want to be a moderator? Got an idea? Let me know. I’m so glad to have you aboard this experiment to create community all year long.

my reading 2015
What reading looks like to me in 2015

 

#BIT15Reads: Interview with author Jose Luis Vilson

Bright and early Sunday morning at 10 am EST (we changed the clocks back an hour in Ontario), author Jose Luis Vilson joins me to talk about his book This is not a test: A new narrative on race, class and education.

Taking a moment to reflect on Jose’s work and how he described it in person this morning here are some of my takeaways:

  • public education as it exists now is a band-aid approach.  We need to get better at predicting inequities and solving them before they happen
  • blogging is an amazing tool for personal and professional reflection….the act of formalizing my thoughts has lead me to experiment in greater ways….it was nice hearing that Jose’s approach to writing began as writing for himself and to connect to his community for support
  • the internet is amplifying inequities rather than solving them. This is a constant source of disappointment and frustration for me.
  • our students may struggle with digital literacies long term but the immediate need is to solve inequities through strong pedagogy first
  • the government, across North America, needs to invest in equity and renew efforts to see students as change agents by giving them voice and agency

If you’re following along, you’ll know that Jose and I just lost our connection.  I had to start a fresh hangout.  Here it is now:

I will make an effort soon to edit that together to make it less disjointed.

#BIT15Reads: Interview with author Clive Veroni

Today at 5:00 pm ET Clive Veroni joins me to discuss his book Spin

Veroni’s book Spin revolves around the idea that modern media marketing has completely changed politics and business practices from autocratic to democratic….much the same way that education is moving.

There are so many things that Clive said that both reaffirm and challenge by beliefs in what I try to do in school each day.  In the book and the interview I tried to get Clive to talk about his own creative process and he shockingly says he doesn’t have a process!  In fact approaching each challenge in his marketing work with a fresh perspective is a strength which he uses all the time.  As I suspected through Clive’s own writing, he has a deep relationship with literature, art and beauty which helps him in non-linear problem solving.  It is refreshing to hear how much his arts education background has helped him with the empathy-building and narrative-constructing that he requires on a daily basis.

Final words, dear reader:  You need to read this book.

#BIT15Reads: Interview with author Rosemary Lehman

Author Rosemary Lehman joins me today to talk about her book Motivating and Retaining Online Students

As you can see in my video, there are a lot of stickies on my copy of her book!  It was a genuine thrill to speak with her today and being able to ask her questions deepened my understanding of her strategies and gave me lots of new ideas to go forward.  Here are some of them:

  • make your technology experiences sensory….what senses can we heighten with the technology experiences we provide our students in online and blended classrooms?
  • allow for as much interaction and varied types of interaction as possible
  • provide a reliable structure to experiment/play within
  • fill your course with discovery…this is key for school-aged children but for all students as well
  • use electronic office hours to build relationships; evaluate the participation in electronic office hours as an extrinsic motivator to connect with all students in a virtual face-to-face way
  • MORE visuals!  All sorts!

Here is a link to the livestream video.

She also shared some slides with us which you can find here:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1QD_umoDK2zMx1MIXiLFXJEt5I7dRHNpfTPiGCvhrqlI/edit?usp=sharing

#BIT15Reads: Google Hangout with Heather and Deb

Tonight at 7:30 pm I will go live with Heather Durnin and Deb McCallum about their reading and experience in the BIT15Reads bookclub so far.  Deb is reading Motivating and Retaining Online Students by Rosemary Lehman, and Heather is reading This is Not a a Test by Jose Vilson.  Both authors have agreed to be interviewed in the near future so I’m hoping that Heather, Deb and I can agree on some questions.

If you want to join us live, you will receive an invite about 7:30pm.  Or you can watch the livestream below and tweet using the #BIT15Reads hashtag.

#BIT15Reads: The Glass Cage by Nicholas Carr

The Glass Cage: Automation and UsThe Glass Cage: Automation and Us by Nicholas Carr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Like most people with an urban mindset, Nicholas Carr’s point of view focuses on being able to purchase goods and services at his fingertips. This is why, once again, his writing alienates people like me…people who live in a rural area and still do things like drive standard, grow food, filter water, use a map, and other non-automated tasks as part of my every day living. Carr believes that advances in the automaticity of machines we use is making us more and more helpless. Carr ramps up the paranoia by harping on pilots on autopilot, the number of screens he touches in a day, and how machines are starting to change our behaviour. Carr has a love/hate relationship with technology and seems to worry incessantly that he is a victim of the designer/manufacturer’s economics and politics. True, my morning muesli doesn’t contain enough dried papaya for my taste, but I am totally capable of adding more! I much prefer to hear about his arguments that technological design rarely suits the user and that as consumers we need to keep voicing our opinions. Save your energy for a worthier book that explores technology in a less-biased way.

View all my reviews

#BIT15Reads: Dataclysm by Christian Rudder

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking)Dataclysm: Who We Are by Christian Rudder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can already think of 12 people in my school who should read this book. That hasn’t happened to me since Danah Boyd‘s It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens.  I will pass this on to the math teachers, the social science teachers and the teachers in charge of character education in our building. If you read no other popular non-fiction this year, choose Dataclysm. It’s not just filled with brave and insightful explanations of data, both in a physical sense and in the sense of what’s absent, it is a visual feast of well-formed graphs that are very accessible to the reader.

I will also recommend it to the students in my building who have questions about love, sex, race, identity and data. This is a very important book right here and right now.

View all my reviews

#BIT15Reads: Geek Sublime by Vikram Chandra

Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of BeautyGeek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty by Vikram Chandra
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Vikram Chandra’s final words of Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty, he says: “Makers tend to fetishize tools that they use successfully, and computer geeks are no exception—hackers will tell you in exacting detail about the first computer they ever used, the first program they ever wrote…All cognition is re-cognition, recognition; discover and rediscovery are both nourishing.” Chandra’s exploration of his love of both writing fiction and coding is complex but the way that he weaves in sociological research of culture and language and their effect on modern coding is mesmerizing. There were moments of code and computer science when he almost lost me, but then he appealed to my humanities’ nature with deep analysis of machismo in coding culture or the deconstruction of ancient Sanskrit poetry. I’m not sure what to take away from Geek Sublime, but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

View all my reviews

#BIT15Reads: Google hangout and making your reading visible

Today at 7:30 pm ET I’ll be hosting our second Google Hangout On Air so please join us if you’re able at:

https://plus.google.com/events/cjq0v12mnjjivqrogee67tsebbo

or watch the live videostream here:

A few years ago now I worked with a team at my school in a Professional Learning Practice action research project where we learned how to help our students make their learning visible, by reflecting on our own teaching practice and making our professional learning visible.  That experience truly informed my career and I’ve found that being authentic and vulnerable in front of an audience, online or face-to-face, is a humbling and rewarding experience.  Ultimately it is sharing that leads to deeper personal connections and I aim to do this as much as possible.

In our book club #BIT15Reads, I invite you to share your reading as much as possible to join us as a community.  This week I found an upgrade to my favourite aggregator Zite….which has transformed into Flipboard.  I’m trying it out.  It might not be right for you…maybe you prefer Instagram or Tumblr but if you can, and you do, please share it to the hashtag #BIT15Reads as you’re making your way through a book.  It might be when a quote or graphic resonates with you, or it might be when you question or disagree with something written.

Jennifer Casa-Todd is reading Will Richardson’s book and she tweeted early into her book with a snapshot of the book (maybe an e-version?) of a quick quote she approved of.

Jennifer approval

Stepan Pruchnicky is reading Daniel Levitin’s book and took snapshots of his notes and his book highlighted  with tweets about his wondering.

Stepan wonder (1)Stepan Wonder 1

Stepan later turned his early thoughts into a blog post: http://140pluslearning.tumblr.com/post/128715359806/shhhhh-for-learnings-sake

So how we can make our reading visible to each other is one of the things I hope we can talk about in today’s Google Hangout.  Hope to see you there.

#BIT15Reads: Joining the club and choosing a book

Can you believe that we have 53 members already signed up for #BIT15Reads?  We’ve been alive for 1 week now and this blog post is a response to some of the FAQs I’ve received.

Firstly:  Anyone, anywhere can join the #BIT15Reads book club but the happening-est place to be is inside Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/170190-bit15reads

What is Goodreads?

Goodreads is a social media platform dedicated to reading!  I got started using it so that I could keep track of what I’m reading and what I wanted to read.  As a teacher-librarian, I use it to build lists in when I’m focusing on a particular part of our collection.  I invite anyone on staff to see my lists as I make them, and because it’s live, they can also see my updates.  The reason I chose it for our book club is because of my two goals for the #BIT15Reads book club:  community and longevity.  Too much of my own professional development happens in the tiny bubble of a workshop or conference and it can be years before I revisit that idea again.  Research tells us us that the best professional development is chosen by teachers, has a research component and is embedded in the workplace.  So the #BIT15Reads book club is my action research on building and sustaining the wonderful community that ECOO and the BIT15 conference have brought me for 3 days each year.  It gives us a private place to say what we really feel without the repercussions of being truly public.  Members must be approved by moderators but once you’re a member you can start any discussion you like.

Inside the book club you’ll find:

  • a list of the books that we are currently reading on the Currently Reading bookshelf
  • some other bookshelves for past and future #BIT15Reads ideas
  • discussion boards ….places to sound off, ask questions and a discussion board for each book in the Currently Reading bookshelf
  • events….will come as people engage.  I’m hoping to include Twitter chats, videoconferences, extreme voting, etc.
  • a list of all current members (53 members and counting!!)

Why these books?

As all good librarians do, I’ve been researching which books to add to our list since Andrew and I submitted a proposal for the #BIT15Reads book club in the spring.  These books had to fulfill certain criteria and they are:

  1. They had to somehow relate to education and technology
  2. They have to be current….nothing older than 2014 for the 2015 voting.
  3. The list has to include many perspectives.
  4. The books have to be written by ‘experts’ because the participants of #BIT15 are smart cookies, and we appreciate arguments well-based in research and other evidence.

I have asked the publishers of 21 books in total to send me review copies of the books so that we can review them online.  Most of the publishers have responded very positively and the books are arriving.  As they arrive, I will post them in the Currently Reading bookshelf and tweet about them using #BIT15Reads.  Haymarket Books has offered us a significant discount on their book on our list, but you have to be in the club to see the details.  I’m approaching book wholesalers as we speak about getting involved to get our group access to all the books at a good price.  Many of the books are released in multiple formats so you can enjoy your reading in your preferred mode.  At the moment though, each Goodreads listing of the book leads you to the other formats or retailers of the book.

So how do you get started?

I would recommend that you

a) Join the #BIT15Reads book club on Goodreads.

b)  Join Twitter and follow the hashtag #BIT15Reads

c) Pick any book from the Currently Reading bookshelf and dive into it.

d) As you read it (or when you’re done) please thoughtfully respond to the questions here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1ZYulutird6dIcDgK7ughs5_jXS2e3ycBuCXbJcIu24M/viewform

What’s next for #BIT15Reads?

Your ratings and comments on this form will determine which books move forward in the Reading Club.  Each book you rate gets a total out of /65 as determined by you, the book club member.  On October 1, I will announce the 10 books with the best scores and we will focus on these 10 books for the next month….again reading and rating.  Then on November 1, I will announce the 5 books with the best scores.  At the #BIT15Reads conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario, we will have an amazing session of discussion and debate about why these 5 books are the best in education technology non-fiction this year.

After the conference, we’ll start something new!  This format is just to launch the whole concept so after this year’s conference, we can adjust and tweak to everyone’s liking.